Tranmere’s League One fate and their hopes of beating the drop now lie out of their hands after they suffered a third successive defeat away from home.
Rovers were beaten 2-0 by promotion chasing Leyton Orient, who never really had to move out of second gear to beat a side that, through no lack of trying, failed to create enough chances to have an impact on the game.
The Wirral side went into the game one point clear of the relegation zone, a gap that has been ever decreasing during a now four game winless run that has seen them fail to even score.
But they have now sunk into the bottom four ahead of next week’s final game against Bradford after results elsewhere went against them.
Caretaker boss John McMahon named an unchanged side from Easter Monday’s 0-0 draw with Sheffield United, despite earlier this week revealing that eight players were receiving treatment from physio Gregg Blundell.
That meant Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, Steven Jennnings and Liam Ridehalgh were all fit to start, whilst Abdulai Baggie and Ian Goodison were listed on the substitutes bench.
Whilst Tranmere’s battle is very much focused on the bottom end of the table, their opponents Orient are gearing up for a promotion battle having already booked their place in the play-offs.
And Russell Slade’s side showed just why they have those extra games to look forward to, with quick, silky passing that kept the ball away from their opponents for long spells.
However, despite dominating possession, the O’s struggled to get past Tranmere’s central defensive pair of Matthew Pennington and Ash Taylor in the opening half hour.
Indeed, in a first half, the home side created only one chance of note, with Dean Cox forcing Owain fon Williams in to a smart save down to his left with a shot from 20-yards.
That chance came in the third minute, but it took another half an hour for Orient to stretch Tranmere’s defence again, with Shaun Batt counter attacking down the right and firing into the side netting after a Rovers short corner routine had gone wrong.
But with half-time looming, the O’s did not make the same mistake as they pressed forward and finally breached the visitors’ back-line.
John McMahon’s side could count themselves somewhat unlucky to be behind as fon Williams experetly blocked Scott Cuthbert’s close range header from a corner.
But the rebound fell straight to striker Kevin Lisbie, and he was able to slide home his 16th goal of the season.
Rovers made two changes after the break, with James Rowe and Jake Kirby replacing Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro and Jake Cassidy.
That meant Ryan Lowe was playing down the middle, and the striker was unlucky when a spilled cross from Jamie Jones just bobbled away from him straight after the re-start.
The substitutions seemed to wake Tranmere up, and they soon had two more chances in quick succession, with Ash Taylor seeing a back-heel saved before Max Power curled a shot straight at the ‘keeper.
Down at the other end, Batt fired another effort high and wide before Lisbie surged forward from another failed short corner, only to see his prod towards the near post kicked away from fon Williams.
Then on the hour, the Welsh stopper was on hand again to make another superb save from the ex-Charlton man, diving full length to palm the striker’s 20-yard drive round the post.
Tranmere continued to press forward, leaving gaps in midfield as more men were thrown into the Orient half in search of a goal.
But it was the defence that parted like the Red Sea for Moses Odubajo minutes later, as he twisted past several men before firing powerfully straight at fon Williams.
Russell Slade’s side were looking more likely to score the next goal by now, and they duly obliged with 76 minutes on the clock thanks to a howler from fon Williams.
It was former Tranmere striker Chris Dagnall who got the goal, coming back to haunt the club who sold him in 2006.
But he was given a gift by the Tranmere ‘keeper, whose weak, low clearance went straight to the striker, leaving him an empty net to fire into – something he duly obliged to do from 35-yards.
That killed the game off and quietened a previously lively bunch of over 500 travelling Tranmere fans.
And any hopes they had of a Rovers revival disappeared when Kirby fired across goal and wide of the post from inside the box after being fed the ball by Rowe.
They did create two further chances, Max Power and Liam Ridehalgh both having powerful efforts from 30-yards saved.
But ultimately, Tranmere once again drew a blank and now face an uphill task to secure League One football for next season.